Unfortunately, only in the past 20 or so years has there been an acknowledgment by the law and by law enforcement of the abuse that takes place in marriage. This abuse is more often than not inflicted by husbands upon their wives and the children of the marriage. In almost all abusive situations, children witness the violence that occurs between their parents even if they are not themselves physically abused.

What type of protection does the law give to individuals who are victims of domestic violence?

Most states have passed legislation that provides for some form of injunctive relief or restraining order in domestic violence situations. In addition to special legislation and acts passed by state legislatures, Congress passed and the President signed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. This Act made interstate domestic violence a federal offense and created a federal civil rights cause of action for victims of gender- motivated crimes. The Act made it a federal offense to cross state lines to commit a domestic violence offense. The Act also prohibited the purchase, possession or receipt of firearms by a person who is subject to a protective order.

Are there criminal statutes that can be used to protect victims of domestic violence?

FBI statistics indicate that 1,400 to 2,000 women are killed each year by their spouse, their ex-spouse or their boyfriend. As such, domestic violence is a crime. It is not something to be dealt with behind closed doors. In addition to restraining orders a party can obtain through civil proceedings, there are also criminal statutes that can be relied upon to help protect a victim of domestic violence. These include but are not limited to criminal laws against battery, assault, kidnapping, stalking, criminal sodomy, rape, trespass, terroristic threat by phone or through the mail, and a variety of other federal statutes. It is best to consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction to determine what criminal statutes may be available so you can in turn contact your local prosecutor or district attorney for protection.

I need help now, who can I call?

In addition to legal counsel as well as prosecutors and district attorneys, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can offer suggestions and resources for victims of domestic violence. The number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.